Where Does Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Originate?

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is made up of lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, lymph (fluid) and lymphocytes. It plays a major role in enhancing the body’s immunity by getting rid of any pathogens and other harmful organisms in the body. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma develops when lymphocyte cells start to grow and multiply at an abnormal rate. As a result, the lymph nodes swell up, although they are painless. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has several sub-types which are classified depending on the lymphocyte cells – B-cells or T-cells – affected. The other type of lymphoma cancer is known as Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a much rarer type compared to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As a matter of fact, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the sixth most common type of cancer in the world.

Where Does Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Originate?

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma originates from lymphoid tissue, often of lymph nodes, where lymphocytes are contained. Other major sites where the lymphoma can originate from include the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, tonsils, and digestive tract. This is because lymph nodes are situated at different areas of the body, and the cancerous cells can originate from any of these areas where the nodes are located. If you have lymphoma cancer, your white blood cells undergo abnormal growth and they multiply, producing numerous lymphocytes. These cells turn out to be cancerous, and unlike normal lymphocytes, they do not have a resting period and don’t die. Since the cancerous lymphocytes do not fully mature, they cannot fight against infections. As the number of the cells continues to increase, they collect at the lymph nodes or other parts of the lymphatic system, which then form malignant tumors.

What Are The Causes And Risk Factors of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be caused by a variety of factors including environmental factors, infections, immunodeficiency conditions, chromosomal translocations, and chronic inflammation disorders. However, the exact cause of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is unknown. Here are some of the possible risk factors of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:

  • Genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome and Klinefelter’s syndrome.
  • Family history of lymphoma, although it is not considered a genetic condition.
  • Immunodeficiency syndromes e.g. rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Immunosuppressant medications.
  • Viral infections including HIV, Epstein Barr virus, and Hepatitis C.
  • Bacterial infections e.g. Borrelia burgdorferi that is linked with Lyme disease.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Constant exposure to insecticides, herbicides, and radioactive material.
  • Age – especially for adults on their sixth decade of life. Children can also develop Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Stages of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Depending on the extent of the spread of cancer, there are four stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The first stage is characterized by localized lymphoma on a group of lymph nodes or spread to a lymphatic system organ or an extranodal site. Stage II Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has progressed to two or more groups of lymph nodes or an extranodal site has been compromised. These first two stages are less aggressive and can easily be managed with higher survival rates compared to stage 3 and 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In stage 3, the lymphoma has affected lymph nodes on both sides of your body and above the diaphragm. Also, the spleen may be affected. Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by metastasized lymphoma in more than one extranodal site.

Common Sub-Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

There are different sub-types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which are characterized by the type of lymphocytes involved. There are two types of lymphocytes which can lead to the development of lymphoma namely T-cells and B-cells. The B-cell lymphoma is the common type compared to T-cell lymphoma. Other sub-types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include; cutaneous (skin) lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), mycosis fungoides, mantle cell lymphoma, lymphoblastic lymphoma, and Burkitt’s lymphoma associated with Epstein Barr Virus, to name a few.


The source of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be a single lymphocyte cell, which can be triggered by various risk factors. The affected lymphocyte cell multiplies into many cells, which are cancerous, and deposit on lymph nodes which swell, leading to malignant tumors. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a rather common cancer across the globe and has good survival rates nonetheless. It often develops in adults, sixty years of age or more, although even children can develop non-Hodgkin‘s lymphoma cancer as well. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cannot be prevented because the specific cause is unknown and can be attributed to by a number of risk factors.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 30, 2021

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